Charles A. Fillebrown was 78 years old when interviewed by Edward Steven in 1992.
I was born March 4, 1914. Dr. Simpson was the doctor at the time. The first thing that I remember much about was when I was 3 years old my sister was born. Alice Marr who is 94 now and stopped by the Cider Mill the other day, looked after me while my sister was born. I went to the Waterford Grammar School and Sunday School at the Waterford Congregational Church, and on to Bridgton Academy.
I graduated in 1932. Course that was tough times and I stayed out a couple of years to earn enough money to go to Maine (University) and I graduated from the University of Maine in 1938 with a B.S. degree. Then I worked in the Waterford Creamery for 2 or 3 years. I was the leader of a 4-H Club.
I worked for Hood’s (Dairy) for 2 or 3 months then they drafted me at Farmington in January 1941. I got out in August 1945. I met my wife and married her in September 1943 and my first boy was born in 1945, Charles Jr. I didn’t see him until he was a year and a half old. My next boy was born 7 years later.
Now I have 2 children, 5 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren and it keeps us busy. I hadn’t been home but 3 days in August 1945 and Mr. Edmonds came over and wanted me very badly to come teach agriculture over to Norway High School. So I went over there for a year. I found I could get some money to set my orchards. That next year I started setting the orchards and did various jobs like work in the woods, mostly on my own.
I did the census one year, the U.S. Census. I did soils samples for A.C.S (Agriculture, Stabilization and Conservation Service) and I just retired from A.C.S. a couple of years ago. I had 32 years of working there. I was on the County Committee for 2 terms of 9 years. That, of course, helped farmers do different things. The one I pushed the most was resetting forest land. A lot of the fields have grown up in the last 20 years in Oxford County.
We pushed the forestry practices a lot like thinning, trimming and we gave that preference over some of the others if we didn’t have money enough. Some years we had extra and could approve everything the farmers asked for and then some years we couldn’t. I was a committee member of the Extension for 2 or 3 years there and I was on the Supervisors of Soil Conservation off and on over the years.
I was also a supervisor for Farmer’s Home for 2 terms of 3 years apiece. That to me was very important because I found some of the farmers that were making the biggest picture were not always the best farmers. I learned a lot about economics of farming through that. In the local home I’ve been all kinds of members in the Waterford Fire Department, been a trustee of the Church, although I’m not a member. They could have one trustee of the Church on each committee. I was the moderator for a good many town meetings and I was on the early Planning Board, but it didn’t amount to much because they wouldn’t vote anything in we planned back then and now they have to so it’s much more effective.
My grandmother, my mother’s mother, died when I was less than a year old and my grandfather lived with us until he was 84 years old. He grew up on a farm (in Waterford) where Josh Billings owns now. He left there and his brother, Uncle Frank, took over.
My grandfather bought this little farm up here where we set our first orchard and of course that was in the horse and buggy days. He was a trapper and a hunter. I used to go on his traplines with him Saturdays, which I found very interesting. He was a carpenter and he built a lot of the houses in the village here. My grandfather’s wife’s grandfather built a lot more so between the two of them they built a good many of the houses in the village and around the lake.
My great-grandfather Stone fixed the Rev. Douglas place over to a Seminary for girls, and we bought that in the 1950’s. It was 30 rooms and we cut it down to 9. Later we sold it to the Willoughbys. Then we built this one here, its more easy to heat and nearer our size. My grandfather had a hardware store that he had set up in the yard. People would come holler when he was working in the garden. Or they’d come for the boats and canoes so he was always within hollering dis- tance of the house. Somebody usually stayed in the house, like my mother, to holler at one of us to come and get him.
On the first day of fishing we had to have those boats all ready because the minute that the ice went out they came from Harrison and Bridgton and all around to fish. I don’t know how they got word so quick. Of course then we just had the radio and there weren’t any local stations like we have in Norway now.
My mother was in all the town things. She played the organ in the church for over 60 years. She was always very active in the Circle and the Library and anything that was connected with the village. She was always conscientious about raising money for the public build- in the village, which we had 7 I believe. That taught me to do a lot in that, in fact I just got off the library one for being a trustee there for something like 35 years or more.
For the size of the village we had too many public buildings. My father was the town clerk and town treasurer for a good many years and the moderator at the town meetings for a good many years. He came here from Ayer, Mass. He went to Bridgeton Academy. My mother grew up here. She was very friendly with Annie Dudley whose folks owned the hotel. They more or less grew up together as pals like they do in these small towns. She was very conscientious about everything in the village and the town.
My father was a bookkeeper up to the Spool Mill and used one of our horses to go back and forth during the day. They boarded the horses in the barn during the day and one day the horse went through the floor and cut an artery and bled to death. Just being a kid at the time I thought that was the end of the world.
I’ve got I sister and 2 brothers. My sister was a dental hygenist. My brother Bill, a good many years for the Portland Pipeline and my brother Stephen is a state electrical engineer in Connecticut. My youngest brother is 16 years younger so I really didn’t grow up with him, and Bill was 10 years younger and my sister 3 years younger. So I guess my sister and I grew up mostly together.
This was in the horse and buggy days and of course we didn’t hardly get out of Waterford in the winter. The first year that they plowed the roads was the 1st year that I went to Bridgton Academy.
The roads weren’t tarred then and a good many times we’d get stuck in the mud and had to jack up the car and put rocks under it to get along to school. We didn’t always look the cleanest when we got to school, which was a great experience in a lot of ways. I was president of my class for 2 years at Bridgton Academy. I went out for athletics. I wasn’t the best at those but I remember that the football coach took me on some of the trips because he was anxious for more local kids to go out and they didn’t so he made sure that I made all the trips to give him good advertising, but I was just a substitute you know.
I went to the I room school over here. There was 10 girls and 3 boys the last 4 years I went so it was a bit odd. At Bridgton Academy my class was the biggest class that had graduated from the Academy. Pretty near all the kids from Waterford and South Waterford went to Bridgton Academy because they were closer I suppose. Some of them before me had to board there of course. Most of the East Waterford kids seemed to go to Norway and a lot of the North Waterford kids seemed to go to Gould Academy. I suppose that was the nearest one to them. Our Charlie was the first one to go to high school in SAD #17.
We were very active when we came home from the army helping to get the school up here (Waterford Memorial School, 1948) that was all grades because we had 3 or 4 one room schools and it was getting really outdated.
We’d have dances at the Community House. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 18 or 19 I guess. I was a little afraid to for some reason. We had a horse and I had a lot of fun with that.
I’d take it with 2 or 3 of the boys and we’d ride all around the hills here and explore. At one time 8 to 10 of us had saddle horses and we explored all around here. Of course I went swimming just about every day in the lake in the summer. My grandfather had 9 canoes and 15 boats he rented on the lake.
Seemed like once a week there’d be a windstorm and some of them would blow off. I’d have to go around the lake and gather them in. My grandfather planted gardens and even in the 4 years that I went to the University of Maine he would plant a good garden for me and I’d get home in time to look after it. I sold vegetables and I had two cows and I sold milk for 80 a quart and believe it or not I made pretty near enough to go to (University of) Miane. My sophomore year I went back with the money I got from those 2 things and I joined a fraternity and I got 2 or 3 work jobs and I think I had to write home to get $25 to close out my accounts for the year. You could work your way through then and now it must be almost impossible. They have to borrow pretty heavy to do it. I didn’t make any great Dean’s List rank because I had to work so much in the fall. I worked up there for 3 years.
They test the poultry for plume’s disease. One of the things I did was to wash the vials and send them to the next farm. That was one of the best jobs up there at the time. One of the sad things in life was that many from around here went to school and then they had to go somewhere else to get a job so not too many stayed around.
All the time that I was growing up we raised our own beef. In my boyhood home I was too handy to the Community House. Everytime they’d have a supper I’d get roped into setting up the tables. When I got old enough they used to have me build the fires. My mother taught 2 or 3 years up here before she was married and I was born. Another one of our favorite pastimes was to go with the teams up the hill and take our sled and slide back. Then we’d have a ride up. The oxen they were kind of slow and they soon let us drive them all the time. It was a rare day that Larry Rounds and I didn’t try the oxen. This happened before I was 14. After they started plowing the roads, the teams vanished fast. We’d haul logs from all these woodlots around here down to the mill at the end of the lake and they’d saw about a million feet so it took quite a lot of loads of logs to go down there to make the million feet.
Of course our greatest undertaking was cutting this house (the Douglass Seminary) in two and making a 9 room house of it. The Rice boys helped me move up from the flat. I didn’t know of anybody who didn’t help somehow to get us up there.
We always was very fortunate in that we had a doctor in the village all the time I was growing up, which we thought was wonderful. He made trips with his horse clear to North Waterford and East Stoneham and around and back through Sweden. In the summer when we got to use his car if we didn’t have anything special I’d go down to Dr. Hubbard’s. John was 5 or 6 years younger than I was and if his father was going on one of those trips we took it. We saw quite a lot of this part of Oxford County at the time.
Dr. Hilbbard probably influenced us the most. At Christmastime vacation, he and Mr. Lockwood and Morgan and 2 or 3 others would get up a bog fishing party and we’d all go ice fishing.
We always had a big bonfire and a good time. Mr.-Lockwood always brought all the food to cook like hot dogs and things. We really had quite a skating party at different lakes. We’d go to Moose Pond or the Kezars. We really had some great Christmas parties during high school and college. I don’t know how he managed it but Dr. Hubbard always seemed to be around the night of the Fourth and we’d all take our fireworks together down to the lake. He’d kind of supervise us using them. Not too many got hurt from them this way. I don’t know how he could look so many ways at once but he did. He was more or less in charge, there were others there to help. He always seemed to make a point of being there that evening. Of course we thought that was pretty wonderful. And at the end we’d stop and look around. All around the corner of the lake there would be cars stopped all the way down and around watching the fireworks.
We had what was called the Oxford County United Parish. It was a combination of the three churches in Waterford, East Stoneham and Albany and one in Lovell. Each year we had a big carnival in North Waterford and everybody attended in now what is the historical building. We’d have a play and the awarding of prizes. It seemed like there was a thousand people there but there wasn’t of course. It seemed real crowded. I don’t know how they got so many in as they did. Of course we’d have a big dance at the North Waterford Church. That was our biggest social gathering I guess. Of course our local church had a Christmas tree for Sunday school.
My folks were Grangers. We’d go down to the South Waterford Grange Hall about every other Saturday and we’d have a Grange meeting in the morning and we’d have a dinner in the afternoon. We’d have entertainment. Different kids would pit on things and we’d have a big supper at night and then in the evening they’d usually have a big dance. we thought that was pretty good at the time. After this United Parish got started they’d have movies down there once a month.
We all used to walk down to those in the evening when we were in grammar school. I always planned to be a farmer and that’s what I was. I took dairy technology at the University of Maine and that’s how come I worked at the creamery which my grandfather started years ago. At one time they made at least a ton of butter a day and shipped it to Boston. We had quite a lot more industry growing up than we do now.
A big bunch of us from Oxford and Franklin County all went into the service on the same day and on the same train together. All of us from the two counties but 4 for got sent back to Portland, and the other 3 were undertakers so I thought I must have said something wrong. They sent me to the Veterinary Corps that was with the Medical Corps back then, later they separated it. Where I’d worked for Hood’s (Dairy) they sent me in to be a milk inspector for the Army at the local forts. But in the meantime I got scarlet fever and was quar- antined in for 6 weeks. I was only in the Army for 3 or 3 weeks before I got scarlet fever. Then when I came back out I worked at the station hospital as a ward boy for a few months and then they sent me to Walter Reed to x-ray school. I did that for several years right at (Fort) Devens. I was sent overseas as a platoon sergeant for the 60th Field Hospital. Artillery would set right behind us. They’d shoot over us for 2 or 3 days to clear the lane and we’d cross the river and we’d get a lot of patients.
It was very educational and quite sad at times. When we moved to a place to set up a field hospital they’d get to roaming around and get tents and things set up and we’d have 2 or 3 get hurt.
A few stepped on landmines – but they didn’t seriously hurt them. Some of the fellows that I knew in town and especially at the university got killed. we didn’t find out about that til we got home. Of course that was kind of sad.
In 47 and 48 1 bought my second field up here and we set 500 trees each one of those years. There were about 250 in each orchard that Mary and I had to bud over to macs in the summer and they were supposed to be what they call hardy stock – would sustain Maine winters. And then during the 50’s we bought the third field from Flora Abbott and set those to different kinds. The first year we had any apples was 1952 and we thought we were going to get a a little of our money back. That was the year of the hurricane and two days before we was to pick them, every apple was blown to the ground so we had to sell what few we had as drops. That was quite a setback at the time.
George Sullivan was our broker in Ayer, Mass. That’s where my father came from so I got down to see the Operation there more often than some. In the CA rooms they pumped all the oxygen out of the rooms and just left carbon dioxide. We had Sullivan get a few of us together and that put us in competition with the big growers. We could hire one bunch of packers and teach them what to do and then we could go home and prune our apple trees and didn’t have to pack all winter. That really helped us a lot.
After I’d been growing for a few years, I built the Mai:-n!e- Cider Ilill. That seemed to go good because we didn’t have any preservatives and the people were very anxious to have the cider without preserva- tives. We’ve added to the mill in years since and we’ve really sold a lot of cider.
Everyone would come up on weekends from the towns around Boston just to get our cider without preservatives. And during the years we learned how to graft and bud over the apple trees to 40 kinds. It gave them a good choice and they’d spend half a day just going around looking for different apples to pick on their own. All the time we were orcharding, Mary was a nurse at the hospital which helped an awful lot.
Between the two things we got to know a good part of the people in Oxford County. Mary and I will still go somewhere when a woman will come up to us with her child that’s 25 or 30 and ask if she remembered it when it was a baby.
During those years I was active in Soil Conservation and A.C.S. and Extension. I was Director of Maine Pomological for 6 or 8 years. We had a meeting of the executive committee once a month in Lewiston and the fellows from High Moor and the food specialists always came so it was an easy way to ask questions when you saw them rather than write to them all the time. It helped me a lot and got me so I knew more about it than I would have.
Of course Mary and I have a Tree Farm too. We took care of our woodlot and it was approved for a tree farm years ago. We belong to the small woodlot association. We enjoy that a lot.
Mary took a lot of public offices over the years like I did. She was president of the library association for most of the time we’ve lived here and she belonged to a nurse’s association. She was very active in church. She’s a Catholic and I’m Protestant and we’ve never had any trouble.
The orchard teaches you how to deal with people because you have to have a big crew for about a month. I’ve always had local crews and some of them have been very good. It’s rare that you don’t get I or 2 that you wish would go home.
It seems as though there should be some adjustment in the unemployment. Another thing besides the unemployment laws that’s got to bother me quite a bit is workmen’s comp. We’ve got a nice woodlot but unless we’ve got workmen’s comp we can’t afford to have anyone do much of our work.
I like what Mary and I have done and wish we could do more than we can now. We can’t be as active. I’m going on 79 and she’s 73 and it slows you down. It seems like no matter what you do you have to go to the hospital about once a year for about 5 or 6 weeks, just the same as an old car going to the garage to keep it going. I would like to have made more of my (cider) Stand here and I think I could have if I’d been younger.
It did help me a lot to go to Maine (U.of M.) and knowing all the profs up there that I could get a telephone and find out things. Over the years the State’s been good too. The plant pathology department has had an apple tree pool and they banded all of us orchards together and we’d place our apple tree orders with them.
In my late 40’s and early 50’s I had my orchards going and I could expand a little. Mary was working of course so we both had things go good then. Now that the population is growing a little bit I think it’s nice for Waterford to some extent. We still need a few young people. If you don’t look out, you were not going to have enough young people to shovel snow off the roofs.
I still go up the orchard every day. I have to go see those pretty red apples. I like going over to my woodlot but I can’t walk that far anymore.